RASHEED BAILEY was hanging around his family home in East Falls yesterday, "waiting to see what's next," he said.
Later, ESPN's Adam Caplan reported that Bailey will get a workout with Jacksonville this week, which is nice, but Bailey had begun the weekend pretty sure that he'd be reporting back to NovaCare today, at least as part of the Eagles' 10-member practice squad.
"I'm really not sure what happened," Bailey said. He said when he was released, Eagles coach Chip Kelly told him, "I know you can play in this league," and said he hoped Bailey "could come back." No practice-squad promise was made.
The Eagles ultimately chose to bring back two other wideouts for the practice squad: Quron Pratt, from Palmyra, N.J., and Rutgers, who spent last season on the practice squad, and Freddie Martino, a late invitee to training camp who was with the Falcons last year. Martino made an amazing touchdown catch in last Thursday's final tuneup at the Jets, on a Tim Tebow pass at the sideline. Bailey earlier made a strong but less spectacular TD catch of another Tebow heave.
Bailey became the underdog Eagles fans cheered for in the preseason, for good reason. He is a Roxborough High grad, from the Abbottsford Homes project, who played at Division III Delaware Valley University. He made three or four of the best catches of the Eagles' preseason, giving no sign that he minded carrying the burden of inner-city kids' hopes upon his shoulders.
Bailey, a muscular 6-1, 205, isn't blessed with great quickness, but he plays bigger than his size, and he will find the ball.
Bailey's 10 preseason catches for 100 yards and a touchdown were second-best on the team to running-back phenom Raheem Mostert, who grabbed 14 for 194, eight of them for 93 yards against the Jets.
"They loved who I was, what I did, everything about me," Bailey said, when asked what he was told by the Eagles. "That's what's confusing . . . Whatever decision they came up with, it's not up to me. I'm not in the meeting rooms, I don't know what goes on in there. I just know that they liked what I did."
Bailey said family and friends have been very supportive.
"A lot of people are upset," he said. "We'll see. God has a plan . . . I was liked by a lot of players. They were as shocked as I was. They would tell me [before the final cutdown and the practice-squad decisions] to relax, that I'm good, that I'd made enough plays."
When it became apparent Bailey wasn't coming back, "I spoke with Jordan [Matthews]. He gave me some words of encouragement," Bailey said. "It's not over. We'll see what happens. It's a long season."
Last season, only nine players made the leap from nonscholarship Division III to the NFL for Opening Day. Bailey's grasp of route-running and the complexities of an NFL scheme might not have been all that great.
A few weeks into training camp, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was asked about Bailey.
"Early in the spring, he didn't know diddly," Shurmur said. "He was out there running around. But you can see, now he makes very few errors . . . He's kind of a thick-bodied, tough guy, so he shows up in those kinds of uncontrolled situations when we're scrimmaging and such, and he catches the ball. I think if you had one attribute [to choose] as a receiver, being able to catch the ball is where you would start."
Later in camp, Kelly was asked what had impressed him the most about Bailey.
"I thought coming in here that it may be a little bit too big for him just because [he was] coming from Delaware Valley, but he's kind of handled everything well," Kelly said. He added that Bailey had "shown up" in both games the team had played to that point. "He works extremely hard at it, has a great work ethic. We knew that. But then what you don't know when you have players like that is, is the game going to be too big for him? But he has the skill set to play, and I think he's shown us that."